by Richelle Mead, fantasy (2009)
Kensington, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-7582-3199-4
Succubus Heat is the fourth book in Richelle Mead's series about the succubus Georgina Kincaid, and I strongly suggest that you do not read this review if you have not read any of the previous three books. Then again, this review not only contains major spoilers of the previous book Succubus Dreams, it also contains major spoilers for this book, so use your discretion.
I'm sorry to include major spoilers in this review, but I realize, after three aborted attempts at writing a review of this book, that I cannot explain how I feel about this book without mentioning those spoilers. If you want to remain spoiler-free, just know that this is easily the most tightly-plotted story since the first book Succubus Blues, which is good. What may not be good, especially if you like your books to follow the rules of romance novels, is that this book breaks a few of those rules. (Then again, this book isn't a romance novel, so...) Now be a good boy or girl and stop reading at this point if you want to remain unspoiled.
Now, where were we? Ah yes, Georgina is currently sleeping with Dante the magician, but she is still nursing a broken heart over Seth, the beau who went ahead and broke her heart in the last book by sleeping with Maddie. Distraction comes in the form of what seems like a diplomatic assignment as Georgina is summoned by Jerome to go north across the border to assist a rival demon boss Cedric. Of course, we are talking about folks from Hell here, so Georgina's other mission, one that Jerome doesn't have to tell her outright, is to undermine Cedric and make him look like a fool. You see, there are a bunch of people in Canada who fancy themselves Satanists, only their public displays of what is supposed to represent anarchy and evil are embarrassing even the big guys in Hell. Georgina is supposed to help Cedric look into this problem, but Jerome will not mind at all if she "slips up" and lets those "Satanists" make Cedric look like a complete fool now and then.
It doesn't take long for Georgina to realize that there is more to her mission than jokes made at Canada's expense - there is a genuine plot afoot, especially when those "Satanists" are apparently led by a genuine non-human entity. The plot culminates with the disappearance of Jerome. Not only are Georgina and everyone else under Jerome's rule suddenly stripped of their powers, the other more powerful demons are soon making a stampede to Seattle in a bid to fill in the abruptly vacated seat. You know what they say about elephants at war, as a Malay proverb will say - the ants are ones that get trampled. Ants like Georgina, her vampire friends, the imp Hugh...
On the bright side, having lost her energy-sucking powers means that Georgina can finally shag Seth without fearing that she will kill him. Oh, the drama that ensues!
The plot in this story is better than that in the previous two books, as this one actually plays a prominent part throughout the entire story instead of being relegated to the background for the most of the story. With better pacing, more menacing villains, and plenty of emotional angst that actually coexists well with the urban fantasy plot, Succubus Heat is easily the best book in this series since the first book. There is actually easy humor here as Georgina isn't as bitter as she was in the last book. The one big downside to this very enjoyable story is that I have reread the climatic moment where Georgina frees Jerome four times and I'm still confused. The magic of the key is supposed to be activated by very powerful immortals, like Jerome. So how is Georgina able to use it to free Jerome? Is she going to be revealed as a Very Special Heroine in a later book?
As much as I enjoy this story, I'm a little worried about how Ms Mead is in danger of turning all the big bosses in this story into adorable funny Mafia types. Cedric is way too nice, kind of like an adorable uncle, and he even has a lovelorn PA. What happened to the tyrants? I love the fact that Roman is back in this story, but I am concerned that he's going to turn into a nice guy by the next book. That or the poor man will meet the fate of Dante - Georgina is, from her story so far, toxic to any man who loves her whose name isn't Seth.
No, hold that last sentence. Here is a potentially controversial development, depending on how you take to this kind of story line in your books: Georgina and Seth have sex here. Yes, this means Seth is an even bigger jerk than ever, as he cheats on Maddie with Georgina before the ink is dry on the scarlet A branded on his forehead by angry readers of the previous book. I can understand why Georgina will want to sleep with Seth, I guess, but ouch, poor Maddie! Still, the fact that Georgina is the one who breaks off the affair makes her a better person than Seth, I suppose, but I also have to laugh when Georgina realizes that Seth cheating on Maddie means that Seth too is now marked by sin and he's going to burn in hell. Bwahahaha, beautiful! Seriously, though, I am okay with this affair, given that Georgina perhaps deserves a chance to shag Seth out of her system, but I am not too pleased with how Ms Mead still have Georgina and Seth dancing around each other by the end of this book. Seth is really ruining the story when we have hotter and more deliciously sexy guys like Dante and Roman running around and he turns Georgina into a Moaning Meenie. Why can't he just go away?
Ms Mead really knows how to play me like a violin, I tell you. Georgina can be a big hypocrite here. For example, she is so self-absorbed in her own misery that she cruelly uses Dante while reasoning that he is not a moral man so he deserves what he gets, which is bad enough if Ms Righteousness here didn't end up in bed with Seth. Half the time Georgina has no high ground to stand on - I'd argue that she has long lost any authority to judge people since the second book Succubus On Top - but still, as much as I want to shake Georgina at times until her teeth rattle, I can still understand why she feels and acts the way she does. I don't have to like her, of course, but she is still a compelling heroine who is flawed in a way that I can definitely relate to.
This leads me to a thought that occurs to me while I am thinking about this book. While I feel that Ms Mead has done an excellent job bringing to life Georgina's emotions and letting me relate to her here, a part of me is confused. You see, Georgina is an immortal. She has lived for a long, long time. So shouldn't her experiences throughout the centuries affect her? With Seth, Georgina behaves, feels, and thinks like a human woman in love. The thing is, shouldn't Georgina be more... I don't know, fatalistic about love after living for so long? She will lose Seth in the end, anyway, since he's human, so I'd imagine that an immortal like Georgina will be more inclined to let Seth go with less of a fight. After all, she has forever to find a replacement. Am I supposed to believe that Georgina was completely untouched by the countless men she had shagged in her centuries of existence as a succubus that she behaves and feels like a human woman when it comes to love?
Funny at some places, heartbreaking at other places, Succubus Heat is a book that I have a great time reading. This series is definitely moving in the right direction, I feel. Just watch out for the romantic soap opera - I can only hope that it doesn't bog down the series too much.
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